Case Study: High Availability and System Migrations

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If your iSeries fails, when do you take your backup tapes to your hot-site to become operational again? Many IT managers hope they can repair or replace their systems in less time than it takes to travel to the hot-site location and begin the time-consuming process of restoring applications from tape. Often, IT chooses to wait it out while management frets and employees sit idle.

Tommy Barge, V.P. of Information Systems at Beaulieu Group, can relate. His company, a major carpeting manufacturer, was paying huge monthly fees for a hot-site subscription. The service provided only a two-to-three-day recovery time, and the recovery point was only up to the last tape save, which could be 24 hours old.

Given these costs and limitations, Barge realized his company needed to implement a self-sustaining, internal disaster recovery (DR) plan that included a high availability (HA) solution in order to provide fast and complete recovery.

Searching for the Right Solution
Beaulieu Group was already using iTera's Reorg While Active product to eliminate downtime caused by the file reorganization process and therefore decided to evaluate iTera's Echo2 High Availability solution. "I did several site visits and spoke to many Echo2 customers," Barge said. "Every company I talked to successfully used Echo2 in a different way because of its environment. This showed me that Echo2 is a very configurable product, and it encouraged me that iTera would ensure the right configuration for our environment."

"When I select software, I want to have a partnership with the software company," emphasized Barge. "I am not interested in being wined and dined or paying the absolute lowest price. I want a good solution at a fair price and with proven excellent support."

When Echo2 was installed, Beaulieu Group had, side by side, an iSeries Model 840 as its production server and a Model 740 as its backup. By installing Echo2, the company eliminated 14 hours of downtime from month-end tape save procedures. "That probably paid for the solution," said Barge. "Prior to the implementation of HA, we had to conduct manual processes during the downtime periods in order to manually track and input transactions after the save was completed. Eliminating this extra work, as well as the errors that naturally occurred, nearly paid for Echo2."

Migrate and Consolidate Servers with Little Downtime
When the lease came up on its Model 840 production system, the company decided to move to a new i5 model with more processing power and a smaller processor-group rating. This meant saving thousands of dollars on annual software maintenance costs; in fact, the savings from the move would nearly pay for the new machine. To ensure the backup environment would have the same resources as the production machine during switchovers, Beaulieu Group purchased two Model 550s.

Barge was pleasantly surprised when he realized that with a special licensing arrangement from iTera, he could use Echo2 to migrate the data from his older machines to the new 550s and save many hours of downtime. The last time Beaulieu Group migrated to a new iSeries, nearly 36 hours of downtime occurred.

Using Echo2, Barge and his team migrated the production 840 and two smaller Model 720s to the new Model 550 production machine. The old Model 740 backup machine was migrated to the second new 550 box.

The entire migration and server consolidation was accomplished with only 3.5 hours of downtime. "Had Echo2 not been used, it would have likely required 36 hours or more of downtime to complete these migrations," Barge said. "Most of the downtime was due to tasks that should have been done hours before the migration completed and had nothing to do with Echo2. If our ducks were in a row, I believe our total downtime would have only been 30 to 45 minutes."

The Importance of Reliable Switchovers
"As we learned with our first tests of the switchover process, Echo2 does a great job on the things that the software controls; however, the challenge is to get everything in one's computing environment ready for the switchover," Barge said. "This includes properly configuring a variety of things prior to the switch, including networks, interfaces, scheduled jobs, routed traffic, and more. If you can't switchover quickly, it's not Echo2's fault. You have to stay up on what is changing in your IT environment on a daily and weekly basis. We test the switchover once per quarter, running the company on the backup system for 20 hours or longer before rolling back. This allows testing during shift changes, testing our time and attendance systems, etc., as well as discovering any recent changes to the network."

"The company's expectation is that if the production machine is disabled for any reason, users and processes need to be back online within 30 to 45 minutes," Barge said. "We are in the process of creating a formal DR plan that spells out exactly when we trigger a failover [a switchover when the production system is down] in the event of an unplanned outage. Of course, we don't want to execute a failover if it looks like the outage will last under 30 minutes. The decision of how long to wait before initiating a failover is certainly far easier with HA than with a hot-site subscription."

A Successful Partnership
HA is a powerful DR and business continuity technology, and Beaulieu Group has experienced this in various ways. The company knows that the Echo2 HA solution will more than pay for itself should another hardware failure occur; in fact, Echo2 HA nearly paid for itself within a few months by eliminating downtime from daily and monthly tape saves. Echo2 also surprised the Beaulieu Group by saving the company untold thousands of dollars when the product migrated and consolidated several of the company's servers with little downtime.

Given Echo2's reliability and ease-of-use, the knowledgeable and responsive iTera support staff, and the rapid ROI, Barge is quick to attest that his partnership with iTera has indeed been a great success.

Richard Jackman is Assistant Director of Marketing at iTera, Inc., a premier provider of high availability software for the IBM iSeries (System i5). For more information, call 800.957.4511 (in the U.S. and Canada) or 801.799.0300 or email Richard at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..